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[Annual Review] - Stay At Eight To Ensure Competitiveness For 2021

Was not thinking of penning this annual review since it was a shorten season due to the ongoing pandemic.

Nonetheless, I decided to come up with a short piece to sum up my thoughts on the extraordinary year that not only affected local football but also our daily life as well.

First of all, congratulations to Albirex Niigata (Singapore) for regaining the Singapore Premier League (SGPL) title which they last won in 2018 as part of their clean sweep of local major honours.

The ongoing Covid19 pandemic resulted a number of competitions, both regional and domestic, being postponed or cancelled thus it is likely to see a packed footballing calendar next year.

Not only will we see Tampines Rovers, Lion City Sailors and Geylang International taking part in the continental tournaments like the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup, the AFF Suzuki Cup is scheduled to return next year (though in December 2021 in the latest update provided by AFF on 7th December) as well after the pandemic scrapped staging of this marquee tournament which was supposed to take place last month.

Geylang International will be playing in the AFC Cup in 2021 (credit: FAS)
However, one of the biggest concerns facing Football Association of Singapore (FAS), the local game governing body, is the status of former SGPL champions Brunei DPMM.

Again, it was the Covid19 situation that blocked the sultanate club from resuming their campaign and with FAS president Lim Kia Tong stressed the club which is bankrolled by the Crown Prince of Brunei being an "integral part" of the SGPL, it is unlikely to see the Bruneians cut off their links with local football in the near future.

Yet, it is still important to determine the status of DPMM whose participating agreement with FAS actually expires end of this year.

To avoid the uncertainty that almost causing the delay to the resumption of the league back in mid October, it is crucial to have those outstanding issues to be ironed out at the soonest to avoid unnecessary piling of matters with a packed calendar being anticipated.

I am not sure how the rest felt when the SGPL was suspended back in March?

I thought I would easily overcome the void left behind for something I have been involved over the past two decades by looking for some other stuff to fill the slot and how wrong was I when the uncertainty continued from weeks to months.

And like many, I breathed a sigh of relief when the league was resumed in October and relished the opportunity to be able to take pictures from the sidelines again, something which seemed to be taken for granted in the past.

Something was clearly missing till the resumption of the league
Especially when stringent protocols were in place to ensure everyone's health is well taken care of at this period of time, such as: health declaration before turning up at games after approval was given by the relevant authorities. 

Thankfully, with the exception of the unpredictable weather that saw a number of games played on heavy surfaces, everything went smoothly since the resumption till the conclusion of the truncated league season.

However, with the pandemic still in place, we are not sure if those protocols will still be in place or even tighten up but one thing we do hope is not to see the embarrassment of Tanjong Pagar United taken place again.

After losing 4-2 to Young Lions at Jurong East on the final day of the season, the once mighty Jaguars claimed the undesired record of finishing the whole campaign without a single win to their credit - a first in local professional football history.

Hastily reassembled to meet the requirements saw the return of Tanjong Pagar United to the fold at the eleventh hour is not something new in the scene, yet it is a mistake the league authority never seems to learn.

Tanjong Pagar United's Syabil Hisham after the 4-2 loss to Young Lions
In order not to make another mockery out of it and further devaluate the competitiveness of the SGPL, I would rather see the number of the teams remained at eight (if DPMM is still being hold back by the travel restrictions) than making another hastily decision to approve any late request to join the local professional league while allowing teams who performed badly to reorganize themselves for next season.

And this should be something on the agenda when the FAS is due to have its elections again next year.

Till the next time, please stay safe and healthy and DON'T be a COVIDIOT!